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Australia's QBE Insurance annual profit more than doubles but misses view

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By Echha Jain

(Reuters) -Australia’s QBE Insurance Group’s full-year profit more than doubled on Friday, helped by higher income from premiums, but missed analysts’ expectations, sending its shares on track for their worst session in three months.

The group, which operates in 27 countries including the U.S., said adjusted net cash profit after income tax was $1.36 billion for the full year ended Dec. 31, compared with $664 million a year earlier.

It, however, missed an LSEG estimate of $1.40 billion and a Citi forecast of $1.46 billion.

Shares of QBE were trading about 3.3% lower at 2330 GMT, after falling as much as 4.8% to A$15.61 earlier, their biggest intraday loss since Nov. 15.

Analysts at Citi said the results are “certainly a disappointment” relative to its forecasts.

However, they still think QBE should be performing better given that the insurance cycle has been at its strongest in 20 years.

The country’s biggest insurer by market value said it expected premium rates to remain supportive, targeting a mid-single digit growth in fiscal 2024 on a constant currency basis.

QBE’s gross written premiums on a headline basis rose 9% to $21.75 billion in 2023, supported by higher premium rates as well as targeted new business growth.

However, its net cost of catastrophe claims increased marginally to $1.10 billion due to extreme weather conditions in its areas of operation.

Strong returns on fixed income assets amid higher interest rates boosted net investment income to $1.37 billion, compared with an investment loss of $773 million in the prior year.

QBE reported combined operating ratio of 95.2%, compared with 95.9% a year earlier, and said it was targeting a COR of about 93.5%. A ratio below 100% means the insurer earned more in premiums than it paid out in claims.

It also declared a final dividend of 48 Australian cents apiece, up from 30 cents a year ago.


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